The anti-tax, anti-bailout Tea Party movement appears to be a sustained political force, at least in 2010. The question for any candidate is how to either tap into or counteract the Tea Partiers.
Both the Democrat and Republican Kentucky U.S. Senate candidates are sounding populist themes.
Democrat Jack Conway said Tuesday that Washington was not working for Kentucky, and that he is frustrated by bank bailouts, by banks that are not lending more freely. "I think I can be independent," Conway said, but added, "I believe in the principles of the Democratic party."
Rival Dan Mongiardo has already attempted to claim the independent mantle in the Democrats' primary. Spokesman Kim Geveden saying earlier this month: "Kentucky voters are frustrated by an economy that is not improving their lives and want an independent Senator who puts their interests first---before the interest of either Washington Democratic or Republican political leaders."
Republicans are most eager to ride the momentum. Trey Grayson's instantaneous e-mail blast linked his campaign aims with Scott Brown's, "Americans didn’t vote for more intrusive government, higher taxes and a skyrocketing national debt in 2008, but that’s what we’ve gotten from this Congress," Grayson said.
As the Massachusetts election results came in, Rand Paul spoke to the Central Kentucky Tea Party in Elizabethtown. "The Tea Party had a great deal to do with Scott Brown's victory," Paul said. "Our campaign is riding that same momentum in Kentucky. But as much fun as it was to see a Republican win in Massachusetts, it's a little early to be dancing in the end zone. Even if this one win does kill off socialized medicine, we still have a very long way to go in the government reform effort."
Paul has been the candidate most closely linked with the Tea Party movement. Some of the Tea Partiers, however, are questioning which candidates are true believers.
A former Rand Paul volunteer who had left the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, writes in The Kentucky Freedom Digest that Paul is claiming too close an affiliation with the Tea Party movement after alienating the Tea Partiers.
Rand is losing entire county-level volunteer organizations to Bill Johnson, and Rand insists on embracing the Mitch McConnell political machine that is actively supporting his opponent, Secretary Grayson.
And, a blog written by a Sarah Palin and Bill Johnson supporter, expresses similar disdain, calling Rand Paul's grassroots efforts in the Bluegrass, "astroturf," with Paul supporters being imported from other states:
The man who claims to be the tea party candidate in Kentucky's GOP primary, is having trouble drumming up support from among the grassroots here.
--- I neglected to include this statement from Paul campaign manager David Adams in the original post ---
Rand Paul's campaign definitely got a boost from its alignment and collaboration with the Tea Party movement. Rand has said many times that the same out-of-control government spending that woke up millions of Americans over the last couple of years inspired him to run for the U.S. Senate. The key to this election is the same as it is for every other election: gaining the trust of Kentucky voters. Rand's solid credibility as a conservative Republican has energized members of the GOP across the state, including those disaffected members who have taken to the streets in the last year. Rand leads in volunteers, number of financial backers, and in polling. Losing campaigns sometimes will strain credulity in an attempt to mischaracterize the leader's support. This race is no exception. But Rand's message of balanced budgets and letting market capitalism pick winners and losers while government focuses primarily on strong national defense has struck the right chord with a growing number of Kentucky voters.
Meanwhile, the tpmmuckraker talking points memo details "the political insiders accused of hijacking the Tea Party Movement."